Air conditioning may be the most obvious way to keep your home cool in the summer, but it can be a significant energy and money suck in warmer climates. There are a number of things you can do around the house to stay cool while lowering your energy use and bill, either to replace AC use in more temperate climates or to reduce it in hotter ones.
Maximize Your Smart Home Use
Smart home technology has a number of benefits, one of which is a lower energy bill. If you don’t have one already, it’s worth installing a smart thermostat to help regulate your indoor temperature in the summer while also maximizing efficiency. You can set more precise temperatures with a smart thermostat than with window units or older central air systems to keep it just cool enough but not cold and even adjust the humidity, which helps the air feel cooler. You can also program it to increase the temperature during the day, when no one is home, and start cooling down the space shortly before you arrive.
If you have smart lighting, you’re probably already using LED bulbs, which emit much less heat than either CFLs or incandescents, but even if you don’t, you can swap out your older bulbs for LEDs and reduce inside heat that way.
Maintain your AC
Keeping appliances in peak working condition is something a lot of people forget to do, and they lose efficiency because of it. Make sure you’re taking regular care of your air conditioner by doing pre-season maintenance and checking on it periodically throughout the warmer months. This will help it to function properly to keep you cool. It will also keep it running more efficiently and save energy and money, also helping your unit last longer, which is another financial benefit.
For both window and central units, make sure you clean the filter monthly and replace it on a regular schedule. For central units, also make sure the coolant pipes are insulated (it’s easy to add or replace that foam insulation yourself) and keep the compressor and condenser coils clean.
Reduce Solar Heat Gain
Solar heat gain refers to how much solar radiation enters your home and can be a significant source of indoor temperature increases. The easiest way to reduce this is to use your blinds or curtains effectively over the course of the day: For east-facing windows, close them in the morning. For west-facing windows, close them in the afternoon. In south-facing windows, you might consider keeping them closed all day. Dark curtains will absorb more heat than light ones, reducing the benefit, so swap yours out for light summery options or something with a white backing.
If you want to get a little more involved, you can install a tinted window film, which keeps both heat and UV rays out as well as having the benefit of increasing privacy. With one manufacturer claiming it blocks nearly 50% of solar energy, it’s well worth considering.
Open Your Windows on a Schedule
If you’re not maintaining indoor temperature with a central air unit, set up a schedule for opening and closing your windows to keep heat out and let cool air in. Though an open window on a summer day might seem like an obvious choice, the smarter method is to open all your windows at night to get good cross breezes and use fans to pull cool air in. Keep them open until it starts to warm up outside in the morning, then shut everything until the temperature drops again in the evening.
Use Fans Everywhere
It’s old school, but fans can do a lot in terms of keeping cool in the summer. Ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise during this season to blow cool air down on you (in the winter, flip them to rotate the other direction, which will pull cool air up from the floor and push warm air from the ceiling down). The addition of a floor fan pointed at you can go a long way in staying cool even without the AC running, or with it set to a higher temperature than would normally be comfortable. Just don’t leave them running when you’re not in the room—they act directly on your body, not on the ambient temperature.
Limit Appliance Use
Summer is a great time to air dry your clothes instead of running the dryer, which puts out a lot of heat. On sunny days, a load of laundry hung in the morning will be dry by evening. Also, consider washing your clothes in cold water, so the water heater doesn’t put out unnecessary heat. Other things to pay attention to include when you use the dishwasher and how often you turn on the oven. Make sure your dishwasher is completely full before running, and wait until the evening when it’s cool enough to have the windows open so the heat from it will dissipate. And consider using a grill instead of the stovetop or oven as much as you can; stove and oven use is a significant source of heat.
These summer hacks will help keep you cool, save some energy, and may even introduce some new ways to have family time.